Are Americans paying highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?
SAN ANTONIO —
Prescription drugs are for some, a matter of life and death.
Prescription drugs are for some, a matter of life and death.
Many Americans are now buying pharmaceuticals from Mexico and Canada because they can't afford them in the United States.
"We're having to pay probably the highest prices in the world for pharmaceuticals here," said United States Congressman, Lloyd Doggett.
Retired school teacher of 30 years, Elaine Pierce, lived hand to mouth while she was raising two kids as a single mom.
"I lived on less, but I was putting aside so no one would have to take care of me and I wouldn't be a burden to anybody when I retired and I would have money to travel and do things with my grand kids," Pierce said.
Retiring with dignity is no longer a certainty.
Pierce's out of pocket medicare costs are close to $7,000 a year.
She has to take 3 different eye drops daily in addition to medication for both high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
"It's just a stretch now to do the extra stuff when my medications have gone sky high," Pierce said.
Doggett announced legislation ( H.R. 6505), Thursday that, if passed, would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
The second part of the bill is designed to incentivise pharmaceutical companies.
"You know if the drug companies won't negotiate in good faith, we will license competitors," Doggett said. "We will bring in generics to provide some competition."
Doggett is also working on another bill to address prescription price gouging, taking aim at a pharmaceutical company tactic known as, pay for delay.
"Inevitably what the drug companies do is either buy off the competition or make very slight changes in their medication in order to prolong the period of the patent," Doggett said.
Pierce, who is a long time advocate for consumers, was on the insurance board of the teachers union when she worked at the San Antonio Independent School District.
She's been her own advocate over the last couple years having appealed coverage denials through medicare and reaching out to drug manufacturers directly.
"The were really good about giving me coupons that would cut it drastically," Pierce said.
News 4 did some comparison shopping, calling 5 local pharmacies in San Antonio to find out what they charged for 3 widely used drugs.
Here are the results for a 30 day supply of Lipitor (10mg)
A 30 day supply of Singular (10mg)
A 30 day supply of Humulin 70/30 (10ml)
The price from one pharmacy to the next can vary dramatically.
There is an app, GoodRX, that allows a quick pharmacy to pharmacy cost comparison.
Insurance companies generally offer the deepest discounts for both generics and name brand drugs.
In cases where generics are not an option, in addition to comparing pharmacy pricing, you can also call the manufacturers directly for discount coupons and pricing.
Lipitor (Atorvastatin calcium) is the most studied statin and has been prescribed to millions of patients. Today, more than 99% of prescriptions are filled for the generic option. For those patients who prefer to receive branded Lipitor, Pfizer offers the Lipitor Savings Card, which enables eligible patients to obtain branded Lipitor for as little as $4 for each 30-day supply. More information can be found at Lipitor.
H-E-B strives to find the lowest prescription price for our customers. This includes our low everyday price, free third party discount cards as well as manufacturer copay or coupon programs. We encourage customers to ask their local H-E-B Pharmacy Partner for more information.
When discussing cash price for prescriptions, it's important to note that an extremely small percentage of our patients' prescriptions are purchased at cash prices. To assist patients who don't have insurance, Walgreens offers a Prescription Savings Club card. More information on this can be found at this link here.
Walgreens Prescription Savings Club offers savings on more than 8,000 brand and generic medications. Walgreens also accepts a number of other discount program cards.
When choosing a pharmacy, we encourage patients to select one that offers the best value based on pricing and also the services available - such as participation in government plans, 24/7 convenience and services that can accommodate immediate prescription drug needs. It's also important for patients to use a single pharmacy so that pharmacists can monitor their medications and avoid potential drug interactions. There is no generic for Humulin.
At CVS Pharmacy, we recognize that medication costs are a concern for patients. In fact, 50% of the prescriptions we fill in our stores cost patients $4 or less, and 75% cost patients $10 or less.
Last year, CVS Health implemented a comprehensive approach to help patients save money on their prescription medications, including an Rx Savings Finder service in our retail pharmacies (CVS Pharmacy) through which our pharmacists can evaluate prescription savings opportunities for individual patients right at the pharmacy counter. CVS Pharmacy's Rx Savings Finder enables our pharmacists to quickly and seamlessly review a patient's prescription regimen, medication history and insurance plan information to determine the best way for them to save money on out-of-pocket costs, with the primary goal of helping the patient find the lowest cost alternative under their pharmacy benefits plan.
For patients who are not paying for prescriptions with insurance, CVS Pharmacy offers access to low-cost generic drugs by participating in a number of prescription discount programs in the marketplace.
We also offer our ExtraCare Pharmacy and Health Rewards program, through which patients receive $5 in ExtraBucks for every 10 prescriptions filled, earning up to $50 in ExtraBucks annually.
We make every effort to ensure our retail prices for prescription drugs are competitive. Generally speaking, our retail prices for prescriptions are in line with or less expensive than those of our major retail pharmacy competitors. However, due to varying business models and operational costs, there may be greater price differences for some medications between a retail pharmacy such as CVS Pharmacy and other types of businesses that operate pharmacies.